Tuesday, October 8, 2013
Letter Re: My Concerns With Common Core
Dear Governor Herbert, Utah State School Board, State Superintendent Menlove, Attorney General Swallow, State Legislators, Local School Boards, et al.:
First, my children are NOT merely bricks in a wall. They are unique and wonderful children! They have different strengths and weaknesses. My daughter – like her lawyer father – is more geared towards language, words, reading and logic. My son – like his college-educated mother – is more gifted in mathematics and science. My third son is a healthy mixture of the two. My daughter prefers to learn through practical examples and illustrations while my six year-old son likes to learn through straightforward facts and numbers. We cannot successfully parent and teach each of them the same way, so how do you propose that CCSS can successful teach them and their unique classmates in the exact same manner?
Second, my children are overwhelmed with the amount of busy homework they have to complete when they get home from school. To begin with, the kids are awake from about 8:00 am to 9:00 pm. Of those 13 waking hours they are at school from 9:00 to 4:00. Then when they get home, they read for 25 minutes and take about 27 minutes to complete homework – and they are in 1st and 3rd grade! I’ll make this really simple using the “Lattice Method”: there are 60 minutes in one hour and the kids are awake for 13 hours, so they are awake for 3×0 + 3×6 + 0×1 + 6×1 / / / hours. They spend 0×7 + 7×7 + 0×0 + 7×0 / / / at school. Then, they spend 25 + (27 + 3 = 30) = 45 – 3 = 42 minutes doing homework. That only leaves 780 (+20 to round to 800) minutes minus 420 (subtract 20 to round to 400) minus 42 (subtract 2 to round to 40) minutes to spend with their family and to just be kids and learn on their own. Yeah, that’s 800 – 400 = 400 minus 20 = 380 minus 20 = 360 minus 42 homework minutes (subtract 2 to round to 40) equals 320 minus 2 to get to 318 free minutes. It would be one thing if the homework stimulated their brains or if the work was preparing them for the real world, but it is full of mindless estimations and backward mathematical methods.
Third [I will give you 30 seconds to read this paragraph. If you do not read it in 30 seconds, you are not up to MY standards], there is an over-utilization of timed reading in the curriculum. When I was in elementary school, I learned to read and comprehend what I was reading. I don’t know how many words I could read in a minute at each level, but I learned to read at a comfortable pace, while absorbing the material I was reading. Is there some time-sensitive aspect of the “global economy” that I don’t understand? I have lived in Southeast Asia and all over the United States, I have completed 20 years of education and have passed a Bar exam; I do not remember ever benefiting from being able to read something at the fastest pace possible with there being no inherent penalties/drawbacks for lack of comprehension. Why is this so important to state standards? You may have read this paragraph in 30 seconds, but did you comprehend it? It matters.
Fourth, as I mentioned above, I have lived in Asia and I have witnessed the school systems there. The students are generally disciplined and complete their work. The work usually requires almost exclusively memorization and regurgitation. I often hear that the Asian education system is so wonderful and America is way behind in education because the kids in Asia score well on tests, but I don’t see a lot of innovation coming from those countries. Sure, they build iPhones and iPads efficiently and they produce many great products, but I don’t recall many breakthroughs coming from Asia. Am I wrong? They are good at following instructions and reproducing results, but I have found a huge inability to think outside the box, to interpret unique data, and to understand context. Many of them (generally) are followers, but not thinkers. It’s almost as if you are trying to create a generation of followers and not thinkers…
Fifth, I have an assignment for you. Assume that the Constitution of the United States is outdated and needs to be changed (that shouldn’t be too hard for some of you). You – a Federal government agency – want to develop a one-size-fits-all education system for the entire Nation, but the Constitution does not specifically grant that right to your agency. What would you add or take away from the Constitution in order to make this new standard system of education constitutional? You will need to prioritize, prune and add text to turn your system into a constitutionally acceptable form of education. Then, propose a plan for how to get States to go along with your education program. Money is not an issue; you can promise them as much money as it takes, but you must get them signed up. Your proposal will be submitted in its final form as a persuasive presentation to the American people. They have been given the important individual charge – by their Creator – to educate their own children and, having partially delegated that responsibility to local school districts, will judge your proposal based on the validity and veracity of your arguments as to whether you have any right and/or ability to educate their children in the manner proposed. Your score will not be shared with you. We will keep your proposal in our database for future reference.
Sixth, suppose you are the Governor of Utah and in your 2012 gubernatorial election you received 624,678 votes, or 68.4%. Further suppose that during the Republican convention, you received 2,253 votes, or 57.67%. Now suppose that since your election your supporters, who oppose Common Core at the federal and state level, discover that you support Common Core at one or both of those levels. Suppose that these supporters are very serious about the education of their children and do not approve of their elected leaders supporting such a massive, radical form of standardized education. If (let’s put our estimation hats on) half of those supporters become former supporters and choose to vote for one of your Republican challengers instead of you, how many people would still support you in the convention and, if you survive the convention, how many Utahans would turn out to vote for you in the next election? The number is not important. The WHY is everything. As long as you understand WHY, maybe, just maybe you will survive in the Utah – not global – economy.
Thank you for your time and attention to our concerns. As parents of OUR children, my wife and I have the ultimate responsibility for educating OUR children and preparing them for the future. We take OUR responsibility very seriously. You, as public “servants,” work for US. If you do not serve the good of OUR children, we will relieve you of your post or we will remove our children from your collective, destructive influence.